Downloads, piracy blamed for decline

J'can CD sales fall worldwide - Downloads, piracy blamed for decline
published: Sunday | October 12, 2008
Sadeke Brooks, Gleaner Writer

Bootleg CDs like those above, which were among pirated material seized during a sting operation by the Flying Squad in May 2007, have been blamed for some of the downturn in sales.

The sales of Jamaican music CDs worldwide are declining, with Internet access and piracy major contributing factors.

With the great increase in Internet access, the sale of actual CDs has been declining significantly. In addition, with the easy access to pirated music (bootlegs), fewer people are buying CDs and vinyl.

Bobby Clarke, CEO of Irie Jam Media, said "I am very sure the music sales are going down. Record stores in New York are closing down, CD sales are ridiculously low and reggae as a genre is down 50 per cent. With the advent of Itunes and bootleg, it is hard for someone to go into a store and buy a CD."

Economic downturn
Bobby Clarke of Irie Jam Media notes that Super Power Records in New York, a supplier of Caribbean music, closed as a result of the economic downturn in the United States and the decline in CD sales.

Yolan Zanders, marketing manager for VP Records Jamaica, said several factors contribute to the decline in Jamaican music CD sales, such as the recession in the United States and easy access to downloaded music.

However, she does not believe Jamaica is the only country feeling this musical pinch.

"It (music sales) has been decreasing. It's not just reggae music alone," she told The Sunday Gleaner.

Sales declining globally
Globally, CD sales do seem to be declining. In the recnt article 'CD sales falling faster than digital music sales rise' in the International Herald Tribune, it was reported that CD sales have fallen to their lowest level in 10 years, while digital distribution and piracy were increasing.

It read: "Global music sales dropped 8 per cent to US$19.4 billion in 2007, according to a report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Revenue came in at its slowest pace since at least 1997, the first year for which the body issued figures. Physical sales of CDs and DVDs fell 13 per cent to US$15.9 billion. Sales of downloaded songs and mobile-phone ringtones rose 34 per cent to US$2.9 billion."

Zanders said she has spoken to persons in Europe who believe that dancehall music is fading there and this might account for the decrease in sales. However, she believes dancehall has the ability to bounce back from its current downturn.

"Sometimes dancehall dies and then it gets back. That's the trend that I've seen in our music. I don't think it's something that is dead or will ever be dead," said Zanders.

Major problem
Reggae artiste Da'Ville said his music is doing well around the world, especially in Japan, where he will release his album called ItchibanHowever, he believes piracy is the major cause for the decrease in the sale of Jamaican music.

"The bootleg a di number one thing weh a mash up the music. When you do an album you invest a lot," he told The Sunday Gleaner. "So when people bootleg is like dem a tek a thing out of yuh pocket. Sales are decreasing significantly and everytime a man bootleg, is one less record sold."

Internet and piracy
Copeland Forbes says that much of the Jamaican music being produced now is not geared towards the international market.

Copeland Forbes, tour organiser, promoter, consultant and artiste manager, acknowledged that the Internet and piracy are causing a decline in the sale of Jamaican music CDs. However, he said there are other causes, such as the lack of a worldwide record distributor and insufficient marketing for Jamaican music.

He said there is a craving for Jamaican music in the Southern Hemisphere (including Australia and New Zealand) and some Middle Eastern and Asian countries. However, he said, there are few distributors in these areas. In some of these countries, Forbes said, the people only have access to music from Bob Marley, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Lucky Dube, coming directly from Europe.

'Not making money'
"Artistes are not making money from record sales. They are making money from live performances," said Forbes, who has been in the music industry for 47 years. "Music is not selling in America. Europe is a more vibrant market for our music."

But Forbes has another problem.

"The material that we are putting out is that which suits us and not the international market. The lyrics are too colloquial," he told The Sunday Gleaner. "Our artistes need to make the music more understandable, so that the international market can relate to it. If they can't relate to it they are not going to buy it."

Nonetheless, Forbes believes Jamaican music is vibrant and has the potential to grow. However, he said more managers, producers and writers are needed in the business. And there is a very important, intangible factor.

"We don't feel the love in the music. It is just hostile. Most of the music is disposable. We need to put out better music, so we can stand side-to-side with the rest of the world," Forbes said.

Now people who know me know that I always say that artistes don't make their money on sales. They make money touring and with all of the clothing lines and memorabilia. If you read this you will see why SOCA music will suffer even more. We never had a STAR like Bob Marley to take our music with a universal message. Yet we continue to clamour for Billboard and Grammy recognition with SOCA as a musical genre. LISTEN to what Forbes said...

"The material that we are putting out is that which suits us and not the international market.
The lyrics are too colloquial,"

If we only continue to cater to the West Indian diaspora and the international Carnival lovers who have learned to appreciate the music then the music may well be destined to become extinct. Chutney music may well surpass SOCA music because they may do well in the Indian sub-continent as they also sing in Hindi.

The belief in the music has to start at home. Not everyone knows how to get music illegally from the internet. and not everyone can afford the investment either. So if we get the pirates off the streets and out of the plazas and 'malls' we will be starting something. If we also enforce a 50/50 mandate on radio stations at least we will know what our locals have to offer. the URBAN radio frequencies may sound more Trinbagonian instead of Jamaican or American.

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